The Tin Snail by Cameron McallisterThe Tin Snail by Cameron Mcallister

The Tin Snail

byCameron Mcallister

Hardcover | January 12, 2016

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"Half-silly, half-serious and full of human interest."--The Wall Street Journal

Get ready for a wild ride with this classic and fun World War II adventure about a boy who helps invent a car the Nazis would love to get their hands on!

 
Thirteen-year-old Angelo knows that his father’s job is in jeopardy. Only one thing can save it: inventing a car the world has never seen before. On vacation in the French countryside, Angelo gets an idea. So far, cars have only been made for the rich. Someone should create a car for everyday working people. Angelo thinks he’ss up to the challenge!

After a lot of failures, and some rather painful crashes, Angelo, with help from his friend Camille and some other villagers, builds a prototype that just might work.

But testing it won’t be easy—especially when war is declared and he finds out the Nazis are planning to steal his design! This funny adventure will have you speeding through the pages. So buckle up and enjoy the wild ride!

"Kids will appreciate Angelo's confident, headlong enthusiasm and his hilarious mishaps driving across pocked fields, while adults will enjoy the new angle on both automotive and war history."--Kirkus Reviews

"An unusual look at a much-studied historical period . . . Black-and-white chapter-heading illustrations are a charming addition."--Booklist

"A feel-good story about the French Resistance that might very well inspire more than a few designers and engineers.--School Library Journal
 

“A captivating book for young people of all ages.” —T.E. Carhart, bestselling author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank
 
Charming.” —The Guardian
 
“A thoroughly engaging read.” —The Spectator
 
“Feel-good, funny, romping, filmic adventure.” —The Sunday Times
 
“A fantastic family read.” —Mr Ripley’s Enchanted Books
 
Refreshingly different and very engaging.” —Reading Zone
 
“A delightful book.” —Historical Novel Society
 
Unusual and delightful.” —Parents in Touch
 
“I loved this delightful novel. It’s intended for middle grade readers but people of all ages will love it.” —The Bookbag
Cameron McAllister is a TV scriptwriter and has worked on shows such as Robinson Crusoe, Spooks Code 9, Primeval, and Emmerdale. He grew up near the beaches of Cornwall, England, and now lives in Brighton with his wife, four sons, and Floss the dog.Sam Usher's debut picture book, Can You See Sassoon?, was nominated for the Kate Greenaw...
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Title:The Tin SnailFormat:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 8.5 × 5.8 × 0.8 inPublished:January 12, 2016Publisher:Random House Children's BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0553536389

ISBN - 13:9780553536386

Reviews

Read from the Book

1Nine Spoonfuls of SugarI watched the short, tanned figure of my father pour an eighth teaspoon of sugar into his coffee. This might sound odd--and it was--but there are two things you need to know about my father right from the start.The first is that his name was Luca Fabrizzi, which, if you haven’t guessed, is Italian (and, as everyone knows, Italians love their coffee). The second is that there was one thing Papa loved even more than coffee, and that was sugar. He wasn’t too fussed what form it took--though he was particularly partial to pains au chocolat and the sticky fruit fondants created in the pâtisserie across the road from his workshop. But his favorite treat of all was strong, sweet coffee--preferably with enough sugar in it to prop up a teaspoon.It was the same every morning. An hour before school, sometimes more, we would come to the Cafe Petit Chemin de Fer (“the Little Railway Cafe”), tucked away behind the old railway line that divided my father’s workshop from the row of shabby little shops across the street. Looming high above was the factory where my father’s latest designs were turned into reality--a vast structure with arched windows like a cathedral that looked out over the river Seine.Why were we living in Paris? Because my father and mother, Julietta, had run away from home together when they were seventeen. Papa had originally wanted to be an artist and had come to Paris to make his fortune . . . but more on that later.Inside the cafe, my father would always order an espresso--a miniature cup, usually stained around the edge, with a double shot of thick, oily coffee that looked like tar. He insisted he needed it to wake him up. The spoonfuls of sugar he loaded into it? Well, that was for inspiration. Only then could the magical ideas take shape.I would tuck into a large bowl of hot chocolate. Not the powdered sort, either. The cafe owner, a large woman with big hips whom Papa had once described as “voluptuous,” always flaked real dark chocolate into the milk. I loved sipping from the edge of the bowl, the swathes of creamy steam wafting around my face.On this particular day, a bone-numbing winter’s morning toward the end of 1937, a few months after my twelfth birthday, I watched, fascinated, as my father’s teaspoon began its journey back to the bowl for the ninth time. Even by his standards this had to be a spoonful too far. Sure enough, as the sugar was heaped into his cup, the thick black tar started to brim over the edge.“Papa,” I hissed.My father looked over, frowning, and quickly saw the mess. “Blast!” He snatched paper napkins from the little metal dispenser and began furiously dabbing at the puddle. I could see he was in one of his moods again. Italians are famous for their volcanic tempers as well as their taste for coffee, and my father was no exception. One minute he would be laughing and dancing around the room like a demented sorcerer, the next he’d be troubled and unreachable.“It’ll be OK,” I tried to reassure him. “I mean, with your work. Something will come up . . . eventually.”His face clouded, despite my best efforts. I could see that the strain of the last few years had taken its toll on him. As he peered out through the lace curtains onto the cobbled street, his olive skin, normally smooth and clear, looked gray and etched with worry.Three years ago everything had been very different. Papa had been one of the most celebrated car designers of his age--along with his best friend and collaborator, the dashing Christian Silvestre.Christian was an engineer, adventurer, part-time racing driver and, to me, all-around hero. Tall and handsome, with flashing teeth like a film star, he was rarely seen without a glass of champagne in his hand or sporting his trademark flying jacket.Together, he and my father invented something the world had never seen before. Not only was their new car devilishly handsome, with its long, smooth curves and glinting chrome, it also had a unique secret hiding place under its bonnet. My father had sneaked me into his workshop to have a look, wearing just my pajamas and slippers. I craned to look underneath at the car’s gleaming axles, and then my eyes had bulged like saucers as he breathlessly revealed the car’s secret weapon.Instead of being propelled by the wheels at the back like other cars, here was something altogether different: it was driven by the ones at the front. Christian insisted the new design would make the car much faster round corners, something he’d learned from his days competing in the Monte Carlo Rally.The car had one other fiendish trick up its sleeve. Christian had devised a cunning button that would lock the back doors automatically so children couldn’t open them while the car was moving.When the car was finally unveiled at the 1934 Paris Motor Show, its daring new design kicked up a firestorm, almost as if my father and Christian had reinvented the wheel. The public went wild, immediately buying the car in droves.Actually, that last bit wasn’t entirely true. Back then, in the winter of 1934, only a tiny sliver of the population could afford the luxury of a car. Most people in France were dirtpoor and lived in the countryside. For them, buying a car was a bit like winning a ticket to Mars: it just wasn’t going to happen. Instead, they had to make do with anything they could lay their hands on--horses, carts, bicycles . . . even knackered old donkeys. Especially knackered old donkeys.But rich people in towns all over the country, from Toulouse to Tours, went crazy for my father’s car.It was official. His new design was a sensation!All this was three long years ago, though. Since then, I’d watched Papa and Christian struggle time and again to repeat the success of their earlier invention. But somehow the magic kept eluding them. As each new motor show came along, other cars began to steal the limelight.For several years now, under the new German Chancellor, Adolf Hitler, Germany had begun building a network of superfast roads they called autobahns--motorways. With no speed limit to speak of, the way was clear for a new breed of luxury limousine capable of reaching unheard-of speeds. Already, one of the country’s biggest car companies, Mercedes, was developing just such a monster--a great Goliath of a car with a long, aggressive bonnet and streamlined wheel arches.Against this kind of competition, my father seemed powerless. No amount of sugar in his coffee could make any difference. As each year turned into the next, he spent more and more time at his workshop, desperately trying to re-create the winning formula of that first astonishing car. But the more he tried, the more he failed . . . and the more he became lost to me.It wasn’t just me either. I can’t remember the first time I noticed how much my parents were arguing, but after a while there was no mistaking it. They really didn’t like each other anymore.There were also the rumors I heard at the factory. For as long as I can remember my father had talked about people called the Money Men. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant--just that they had plenty of it and had poured it into the company.At first, the Money Men were happy. But with money rapidly running out, these shadowy figures were now muttering in dark corners.When there was no new success to speak of, the Money Men wanted a change . . . or their money back.As far as I could see, only one thing could put everything right. One thing alone could save my father’s career, rescue the company, and stop my parents splitting up.We had to win the Paris Motor Show again.My father looked up from the puddle of coffee that was now rapidly staining the tablecloth, and smiled sadly.“Go and buy yourself a pastry from the bakery, Angelo,” he sighed, pushing a few coins across the table.I knew it was just his way of getting rid of me, but for once I didn’t argue. Maybe my mother was right--it was better to leave him to wallow in his gloom.Clutching the money in my hand, I hurried across the shiny cobbled streets to the pâtisserie. When I got there, I found a large queue of disgruntled customers already clogging the doorway. I wormed my way through to the front as the shop owner, a burly man with a handlebar mustache, tried to pacify the crowd.“I’m sorry, but the ovens have not heated up yet. My good-for-nothing, and soon-to-be-fired, assistant forgot to turn them on.” As he said the words, he glowered at the cowering assistant--a gangly youth in an oversized cap.The assembled customers muttered disapprovingly as they cast long looks at the glass counter. There was no denying it: the pastries were as flat as pancakes.“They are beyond rescue,” continued the shop owner rather dramatically. “You will all have to come back later.”The grumbling customers started to shuffle their way out the door.All except me.I had my eyes firmly fixed on a giant gougère. This was a favorite of mine, a savory pastry made from the same choux dough they used in eclairs but full of oozing cheese. Having suffered a similar fate to the other pastries, it was now lying discarded on a baking tray. But as I peered at it through the glass of the counter, I could just as easily have been staring at a holy relic.“Please,” I whispered urgently. “This one . . . I’ll take it.” The shopkeeper shot me a suspicious look, but I finally persuaded him that I was serious.Hardly able to breathe, I handed over my coins before turning and fleeing. As I sprinted back across the street, the last of the autumn leaves whirled and danced around my feet--almost as if they knew that something magical was in the air.By the time I had skidded through the door into the cafe, my father was pulling on his overcoat, ready to head back to his workshop.“Wait, please!” I spluttered, barring his way. “You can’t go!”“What are you talking about?” Papa asked, irritated. “Angelo, I need to go to work. And you need to get to school.”“You don’t understand,” I protested. “I’ve found your new car! Look!” I placed the cheese pastry on the table in front of him.For a second my father stared at me like I was some kind of lunatic before finally turning to look at the gougère. Then, slowly, he picked it up and held it to the light, examining it from all angles.“Do you see?” I asked impatiently.Still my father didn’t answer. Then, to the astonishment of the other customers, who were all gawping at us, openmouthed, he took out his penknife and slowly, carefully, began to prod the pastry, pressing and smoothing its edges.Thanks to the cool oven, the pastry had failed to rise fully, just as the shopkeeper had warned. But not all over: only at one end. As a result, it had taken on a lopsided shape. From one angle it was proudly domed in the traditional style, but from another, it sloped away where it had slumped, uncooked. You could say it was almost aerodynamic.For my father, like me, it was nothing short of a miracle. Until now, cars had almost always had long, angular bonnets with squared-off radiator grilles that looked like the front of stately homes. But this would be unlike anything anyone had ever seen before.Here at last was the styling breakthrough my father had been groping for!He turned slowly and looked me straight in the eye. “Angelo,” he whispered. “You are a genius.”2A Year Later“Angelo!”I lifted my welding visor and saw Madame Detrice, the boss’s secretary, scowling indulgently at me from the doorway as she tapped at her fob watch. “You’ll be late.”The boss, Bertrand Hipaux (pronounced like hippo, but without the “h”), was a retiring man who preferred others to take the limelight. Tall and willowy, with small, owlish glasses and a habit of wearing crumpled suits, he was probably in his early sixties. He’d never actually told me his age, but I’d worked it out from all the stories he’d told me about his days flying reconnaissance planes in the war.Slightly shambling in his three-piece woolen suit and trademark trilby hat, he was a staunch believer in hard work and thrift. Not for him, Christian’s world of fast cars and even faster women.Bertrand had apparently decided that my father was a disaster when it came to organization. His mind, he said, worked not in a straight, or even a curved line, but in a squiggle like a rat’s tail. Christian was no better. So the hyper-organized Madame Detrice had been dispatched to the workshop to run their lives for them. And now mine.I flipped off the switch on my welding lamp, and the flame was immediately sucked back into the handle. Quick as a flash, I tugged off my apron and set off to find Papa.Ever since the day when I had inspired him with a lopsided pastry, he’d allowed me into his workshop before school, to see the new car take shape.The workshop was my favorite place in the whole world. Stepping inside was like finding you’d strayed into the laboratory of some fiendish wizard. Every surface was festooned with crazy drawings, formulas, designs, doodles and posters--diagrams of every description, yet always of one thing: vehicles. Not always cars either--trains, motorbikes, airplanes, rocket-propelled missiles . . . anything and everything, so long as it went fast.In the center of the room was a series of wooden worktops--not that you could see them. They were covered, sometimes nearly a foot deep, in all the junk of engineering and drawing. Slabs of modeling clay were kept moist with sheets of damp newspaper, some dating back decades; in fact, back as far as the Great War--the last time the German army had invaded France.There were also welding lamps, helmets, goggles, pencils, strange measuring calipers, knives, abandoned coffee cups and discarded wine bottles--all the equipment required for fantastical invention.Oh, and not forgetting sugar, of course. Secret hoards of the stuff were squirreled away in drawers already bulging with half-eaten pastries and long-forgotten fondants.As soon as I arrived each morning, my father would equip me with a pair of greasy overalls to put over my uniform, a leather apron around my waist and a pair of goggles. I would now be ready to get to work on the piles of old scrap metal he kept to one side for me. Old cans, lighter cases, springs, coils, cogs and broken paneling--you name it, it was all here.